The House of Commons Government Operations and Estimates Committee has unanimously called for better protection for federal whistleblowers.
Their latest report, Strengthening the protection of the public interest within the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, addresses all of PSAC’s recommendations to the committee.
“Federal public service workers who have raised issues of wrongdoing have not received the support they deserve from their employer and have often suffered unjust reprisals as a result of their action,” said PSAC national president Robyn Benson. “Employees need to be assured that if they speak up in the public interest, they won’t suffer as a result.”
Appearing before the Government Operations and Estimates Committee in March, PSAC’s submission pointed out many of the current Act’s flaws including protecting wrongdoers and setting too many conditions on whistleblowers. The report recognizes the call by PSAC and other witnesses for an end to the pervasive culture of silence in the federal public service.
“I am very pleased that this report has the unanimous support of all parties on the committee,” said Benson. “We’re calling on the Liberal government to bring in these overdue changes to the law as soon as possible in the fall session of Parliament.”
Committee recommendations could significantly improve conditions for whistleblowers
The committee report outlines a wide range of recommended amendments to the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.
- Explicitly mandating managers and supervisors in federal departments and agencies with a duty to protect and support employees who make a disclosure, as well as any person helping them, witnesses and people mistaken for whistleblowers
- Clarifying and expanding the definition of the term “reprisal”
- Expanding the 60-day deadline to file a reprisal complaint to one year
- Reversing the burden of proof so that the employer must show that no reprisals were taken against a whistleblower for making a disclosure
- Ensuring the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner conducts investigations in a timelier manner
- Enabling whistleblowers who suffer reprisals, including federal contractors, to directly address the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal without having their case first validated by the Commissioner
- Providing more resources to the Tribunal
- Improving the remedies for whistleblowers who suffer reprisals including giving the Tribunal the authority to award reasonable legal costs
- Providing regular education and training to ensure employees are aware of their rights and the disclosure channels and resources available to them
- Appointing the Integrity Commissioner following an open, transparent and merit-based process
The Liberal government has 120 days in which to reply to the committee’s report which was tabled in the House of Commons on June 16.